Whether it’s Valentine's Day, an anniversary, or just an ordinary date you want to turn into an extra romantic one, here are some wonderful activity and gift ideas to help you plan something really special for yourself and your partner.

Have you heard about “Brinner”?

For many couples, the idea of sleeping in or spending the day lazily in bed on your anniversary or Valentine’s Day is far more appealing than rising early for breakfast. Yet the idea of delicious chocolate pancakes, waffles, or a champagne breakfast sounds too good to be missed. Well, why not have both with brinner? This is an exciting twist on the traditional, in which you prepare dinner with a difference – breakfast in bed as your evening meal! Rather than getting up early to make an elaborate breakfast, enjoy your favourite pancakes, bacon and eggs, or waffles later that night with some sparkling champagne and orange juice, enjoying your feast under the covers – it's a rebellious and fabulous treat!

The traditional home-cooked meal is never a disappointment

What more impressive way is there to show you care than by preparing a meal with your own hands? There is no better approach to your true love's heart than through their stomach, so why not cook a special dinner together, or invite your loved one to enjoy a meal that you have made yourself? Unless you're a truly terrible cook, this is a romantic idea that is both easy and cheap. Set up your surrounds with some candles, flowers, soft music and elegant linen.

Try a takeout or three

If cooking is not your thing, or you simply want a night out of the kitchen to take it easy and relax, get some takeout. However, make sure you really indulge by ordering a few dishes from different places (you can always keep the leftovers in the fridge for the next few days). Top it off with an exotic dessert or two. Today is a day to really spoil yourselves and forget the calories!

Take a camping trip

A camping trip is a fantastic way to spend time with your partner alone and in a romantic setting. Cuddle up around the campfire and share delicious fresh smores – what could be more wonderful than cosying up under the stars, surrounded by the beauty of nature? If you can't actually go away on a camping trip, you can still enjoy the romantic experience by setting up camp in your back yard or even in your living room! At home, lay out some sleeping bags in your living room and set up a chocolate fondue arrangement in the middle of the floor that you can dip marshmallows and strawberries into.

Enjoy a beer flight with a romantic Irish twist

Couples who are adventurous types and who enjoy their beer are sure to love trying out some exciting new varieties with a beer flight at their local brewery. Enjoying a couple of beers with your partner is a really nice way to wind down and relax. The atmosphere encourages you both to discuss casual and light topics, and even share a few laughs. If possible, going to an Irish pub can be really romantic, as the atmosphere feels warm, friendly and ‘homely’, with gorgeous Irish music playing. You will be sure to forget all of your daily troubles and be able to just focus on each other, and truly relish being in each other’s company.  

Sing your heart out

For confident couples who are outgoing and love to show off, a karaoke night is the perfect way to sing their love for each other, and even have a few laughs along the way. Duets can be especially fun as you both stand up there together on stage.

Suite comfort

For a really romantic way to celebrate a special occasion away from noisy restaurants and bustling crowds, book a suite at a hotel and indulge in room service to bring you your favorite foods. In fact, book a couple of nights so that you can wake up together in the suite on the morning of your special day. Have breakfast brought to you in bed, stock up the fridge with some of your favorites to munch on through the day (eg, gourmet chocolates and cheeses), watch a few movies together in bed, and have dinner brought to you in the evening. Choose a hotel where you might be able to have a swim, followed by a couples massage together (in between your movies and romantic bedroom activities!).     

Snuggle up to a scary movie marathon

A classic romantic date option is a love movie marathon, but why not go against the grain and watch some thriller or horror movies back-to-back instead? Cosying up to your partner through all the scary moments couldn't be more romantic.

Get closer to nature

Look to the animal kingdom for inspiration when you're arranging a romantic date. Watching wild animals in their natural environment is a relaxing activity that can inspire casual and light conversation between the two of you, and is simply a great way to get closer to your partner. Lots of zoos offer special Valentine's deals for couples.

Get involved in a home makeover

It may not sound romantic, but using the opportunity of working with your partner on making the home that you share together an even more special place can be a fantastic way to spend time together. The result is a more comfortable and attractive place to live that is completely to your taste. Use the day to do achieve some of the more quick and easy changes, such as hanging up a new painting, arranging some new ornaments and homewares around, and even laying out a beautiful new bedspread on your bed. Each time you look at any of those new additions to your home, you will be reminded of how you both spent that special day together.

Capture the moment

Why not surprise your partner with a romantic photo shoot for couples? Choose a location near you known for its beautiful scenery, or go to a place that is special to you both and capture those precious moments together. If the weather is unlilely to be suitable, choose a photographic studio that is reputable for producing some lovely and intimate photos of the two of you.

Work out together

Believe it or not, research has shown that couples who work out together have a better sex life! So head off to the gym together and work up a sweat! Afterwards, you could have a bubble bath or steamy shower for two, and then finish off the occasion with a long and relaxing massage together.

Go dancing

Nothing is sexier than salsa, so why not take a private class, or find a salsa club in your area and go along? Holding each other close on the dance floor is a great way to enjoy a romantic date. You don’t have to be good dancers, you simply just need to enjoy being physically close, and have some fun!

Giving with love

Share your love for your partner with others by choosing a charity together and going to help out as a couple in any way possible. From assisting at the soup kitchen to caring for pets at a local animal shelter, or digging a community garden, there is no better way to connect with your partner and with your local community. These activities will encourage you to feel good about yourselves, and about each other.

Plan for the future

Sit together as a couple and plan out a vision board with your goals for the future, and all of your hopes and dreams for your life together. Look for pictures that capture your perfect dream house, the honeymoon that you hope to take (or even a second honeymoon for those who have already had one), or any images that capture your gratitude for your life together that inspire you about the future that lies ahead.

Party on

Whether you are celebrating Valentine's Day, your anniversary, or any other romantic occasion, it could be even more fun if you involve your friends. This is an even better idea if your relationship is new and you're worried about the pressure of such a romantic occasion. Feel free to plan an extravagant party, or if that's not your style, simply hang up a couple of decorations, tell your friends to turn up with a bottle and maybe some food, and just have a great time.

Make your own romantic gift

Finding the perfect and unique gift isn't always as easy as it might seem, especially if you're on a budget. But there's no need to spend the earth on your partner if you make a present yourself. A homemade gift is a fantastic way to express your adoring emotions, so why not craft something that shows your partner just how much they are loved. You can read on about a variety of handcrafted gift ideas we have at this link. If you are looking for something that matches the theme for your anniversary year, then you can read more about anniversary gifts by year here.

Pick a theme

Traditional romantic tokens like love poems, flowers and hearts may not be everyone's cup of tea, so why not centre your romantic date around your shared interests? Think about the things that you both enjoy – perhaps a city that you wold love to visit, a beloved TV show or movie, or even your favorite sports team, and adopt it as your theme for your special day. Dress up as your favorite character, or in your favorite sports team colors. Planning your date will be extra fun if it’s based around something you both love.

….Or just do absolutely nothing

Sometimes, the pressure to do something romantic with your partner on a special occasion can be just too much because of the high expectations. If this sounds like you, why not talk to your partner about treating the occasion as just another ordinary day? The only rule is, make sure you don’t attend to any of those regular daily chores. Steer away from the laundry, kitchen and office. That way, you can really relax, free from stress and arguments. Why not lie in until lunchtime? Watch a whole season of your favorite shows or read trashy magazines? Or order dinner from your favorite takeout? Let each moment guide you about what you want to do next, without thinking too far ahead. Whatever you enjoy doing, just take pleasure in each other's company. This in itself will make your special day one to remember.

A final message for those who are celebrating a special occasion alone

If it’s your birthday and you are single, you can still make your day special for yourself. Or if you really want to spoil a dear friend who is single on their birthday, you can read this article about planning a birthday, which offers some great and simple ideas just for you on your own, or for someone you care about.

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   

Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS